- Sportline trim adds grunty smooth engine
- Fun handling and comfortable ride quality
- Good value without options ticked
- Option packs make it expensive quickly
- Back seat not hugely spacious
- We wish there was an RS version
Right now, if you’re searching to buy a mid-size SUV, there are over 20 separate models to choose from in Australia. To date, over 151,000 of them have been sold locally in 2023, around 21,000 sales more than this time in 2022. Accounting for a 16.8 per cent market share, it’s clear that many Australian new car buyers are wanting the versatility of a mid-size SUV. Spoilt for choice, which mid-size SUV should buyers go for? We tested the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline 140TSI to find out if it deserves to be on your shopping list.
As you may know, the Karoq is Skoda’s mid-size SUV offering globally, sized below the seven-seat Kodiaq but above the Kamiq. It’s offered in two models locally, and offers a lot to buyers like a practical cabin, a refined driving experience, gutsy turbocharged petrol engines and a long warranty with plenty of options to lessen ownership costs. But is that enough to stand out?
Price & Equipment: 7/10
There are two Karoq models in Australia: the entry-level Style 110TSI and the upper-spec Sportline 140TSI tested here. While there are still many 2023 models in stock – and again, tested here – Skoda Australia has revised the pricing and specification levels for 2024 models that are arriving soon and pricing now starts at $45,490 drive away for the Style and $52,490 drive away for the Sportline.
Karoq Sportline standard equipment:
- Dusk- and rain-sensing automatic all-LED exterior lighting
- Rain-sensing automatic wipers
- 19-inch alloy wheels with a space-saver spare wheel
- Gloss black exterior highlights including roof rails
- Proximity key entry and push button start
- Drive mode selection
- Electric tailgate with kick-to-open functionality
- Heated and auto-folding mirrors with puddle lamps
- ‘Thermoflux’ cloth upholstery
- Eight-way manual front sports seats (including lumbar adjustment)
- Leather steering wheel with paddle shifters
- Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
- Configurable LED cabin ambient lighting
- 8.0-inch touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- AM/FM/digital radio
- 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
- Eight-speaker sound system
- 2x USB-C ports (centre console)
- Rear centre armrest with cup holders
- 3x 12V sockets (1x in the centre console, 1x in the rear seat, 1x in the boot)
- Wireless phone charger
- Floor mats
- Rubbish bin
- Double-sided boot mat
- Boot nets
- Umbrella underneath the front passenger seat
Karoq Sportline safety equipment:
- Seven airbags
- Auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection
- Lane keeping assistance with lane departure warning
- Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Automatic low-speed rear braking
- Driver attention monitoring
- Matrix adaptive high beam
- Adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
- Alarm with interior monitoring
- Auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors
- Tyre pressure monitoring
The Karoq range earned a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017 with scores of 93 per cent for adult protection, 79 per cent for child protection, 73 per cent for pedestrian detection and 58 per cent for safety assist. It now has more standard safety equipment as part of the 2024 model year update.
Options for the Karoq Sportline:
Premium Package ($5,700):
- 9.2-inch touchscreen with gesture control
- Satellite navigation
- Adaptive dampers with more drive modes
- 360-degree camera
- Heated front and outer rear seats
- Heated steering wheel
- Heated windshield
- Lane trace assist with adaptive lane guidance
- Emergency assist
- Automatic parking
Leather Seat Package ($3,600):
- Black leather upholstery
- 10-way electric front seat adjustment
- Memory functionality for the front seats and mirrors
- Passenger mirror with auto-dropping in reverse
A $1,900 panoramic sunroof and $1,200 side steps are also available.
Colour options for the Karoq Sportline:
- Steel Grey
- Moon White ($770 – on our test car)
- Velvet Red ($1,100)
- Phoenix Orange ($1,100)
- Brilliant Silver ($770)
- Graphite Grey ($770)
- Black Magic ($770)
Being a mid-sized SUV, there are many rivals to the Karoq, but we think the Mazda CX-5 GT SP Turbo (around $57,500 drive away, depending on location) is the Sportline’s closest rival because – unlike a Hyundai Tucson N-Line – it also adds a larger turbo petrol engine over lesser CX-5 models and is priced broadly similarly to the Karoq.
Over an unoptioned and $5,000 less expensive Karoq Sportline, the CX-5 GT SP adds a lot of kit like leather seats, heated and electric front seats, a sunroof, a Bose sound system, adaptive lane guidance and satellite navigation, though the Skoda still features a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, interior ambient lighting, roof rails, Matrix adaptive high beam and kick-to-open functionality for the electric tailgate. For value for money, we think that the Karoq Sportline is at its best in standard form as option boxes push the price up a lot.
Buyers can add a lot of the CX-5’s features to the Karoq through said option packages – adding the Leather Seat Pack, Premium Pack and panoramic sunroof to the Karoq Sportline takes the price to $63,690 drive away. At that price, the Karoq does not feature the CX-5’s Bose audio system or heads-up display, but it does have a 360-degree parking camera, panoramic roof, a heated windshield, a heated steering wheel, memory functionality for the front passenger seat, emergency assist, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and touchscreen functionality for the infotainment system over the Mazda. It’s a very well equipped car, but that equipment does make it not cheap.
Performance & Economy: 8.5/10
Under the bonnet of the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline is the VW Group’s ubiquitous ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which makes 140kW of power (at 6,000rpm) and 320Nm of torque (between 1,500rpm and 4,100rpm) in this tune. While we’d love to see it with more power – the 180kW tune of this engine would be great – the Karoq Sportline feels more than quick enough for its intended audience with a claimed 0-100km/h time of just 7.0 seconds, which is 2.2 seconds faster than the Karoq Style and peppier than most mid-size SUVs. Buyers coming from a late 2000s Golf GTI or Octavia RS will feel quite at home with the Karoq Sportline’s performance.
As we’ve experienced with this engine in every other VW Group car since its first version was released in the mid 2000s, the EA888 is a sweetheart of an engine. In the Karoq Sportline, it’s very smooth, sounds pretty good and provides more than adequate punch for its warm Sportline badging. The EA888 is known for its widespread torque and in this tune, the full 320Nm lasts between 1,500rpm and 4,100rpm, which gives it its typically excellent drivability. While the CX-5 turbo’s larger 2.5-litre capacity and full 420Nm torque whack gives it stronger low-range punch, the Karoq Sportline’s 75kg-lesser weight and faster dual-clutch transmission give it a lighter and faster feeling from behind the wheel.
The only available transmission on the Karoq Sportline is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, which also features paddle shifters for more manual control. While DCTs – regardless of brand – are known for their low-speed indecisiveness, the unit in our test car was better than most we’ve tested with lightning fast shifts and a tendency to hold first gear longer than other DSGs we’ve used to help drivability. For keener drivers, the gearbox firms up noticeably in sport or manual modes, with more decisive and actioned shifts – but in regular drive mode, it’s totally fine as well.
The claimed fuel consumption for the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline is 6.8L/100km on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions rated at 156g/km. Our test car, which had been driven mostly in the country, was sitting on 7.6L/100km with just over 3,000km on the clock. Importantly, the Karoq Sportline is fitted with a petrol particulate filter and needs to be filled with minimum 95RON premium unleaded fuel to not damage the filter, thanks to Australia’s poor fuel quality. It has a 55-litre fuel tank.
Ride & Handling: 9/10
Using the same ‘MQB’ platform as several other VW Group cars like the Golf, Octavia and Tiguan, the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline shines dynamically with a nicely versatile dual personality like we’ve come to expect from the brand. It’s capable of some hot hatch-like driving thrills – get it on a good road in sport mode and it impresses with its balance – but, importantly for a family car, it also gives all-day comfort too. Adding further to that dual personality are the adaptive dampers on our test car, which add extra comfort – though comfort mode is a touch too floaty for our liking – and firmness through sport mode, which is still comfortable but just more appropriate for sporty driving.
We’d like a touch more feel to the steering like the CX-5’s rack, but it’s well weighted. Elsewhere in the driving experience, the Karoq Sportline impresses with good refinement and excellent visibility, while its active safety is very well tuned as well. Because of the chip shortage that’s still affecting the global car industry, our test car was not fitted with the travel assist feature – active lane guidance for semi-autonomous highway driving with adaptive cruise control – but the lane keeping assistance works well. We also really like the adaptive high beam through the Matrix headlights as they feature an excellent high beam on the country roads that we drove the car on and accurately shadow cars.
Interior & Practicality: 8.5/10
As we’ve previously seen, the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline impresses with its quality, practicality, slick tech integration and – in the Sportline – subtle sportier details. Quality inside the Karoq, as you’d expect for Skoda, is pretty good with nicely soft touch materials on the dashboard and the tops of the front doors, while even the bridge from the centre console is soft touch. It’s not quite as plush as a CX-5, however, which has lots of stitched leather everywhere but is starting to feel dated. Nonetheless, the interior of the Karoq is still pretty good in the segment.
As you’d expect for a Skoda, the Karoq’s cabin features lots of places to place items, including big door bins with elastic holders, a tray on top of the dashboard, a large cooled glovebox, storage space underneath the passenger seat, a tray to the right of the driver’s knee, a tray underneath the centre console with a wireless phone charger and a large space underneath the centre armrest with storage space, small cupholders and slots for keys and coins. There’s way more storage in here than a CX-5.
Centre of the Karoq’s cabin is an 8.0-inch touchscreen – though our test car featured the optional Premium Pack, which adds a larger 9.2-inch screen. The screen quality is excellent, which nicely bright colours and quick response times, though the volume controls are on the left side of the screen. Gesture control features with this screen, and allows users to switch track or radio station by waving their hand in front of the screen.
The wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is easy to connect and the eight-speaker sound system is good for a non-branded unit as well, but we wish there were live services on offer in Australia. The sports seats in the front are quite comfortable and supportive, while the cloth upholstery used is good quality. We also love the configurable LED ambient cabin lighting, which has a wide range of colours on offer.
The rear seat of the Karoq Sportline is not the roomiest in the segment, but it more than matches the popular CX-5 for space. Two six-foot adults will be more than fine for space – especially headroom, which is excellent. Features in the rear include a central armrest with cup holders, air vents, a 12V socket, door pockets and – if you choose the Premium Pack – heated outboard seats, though there are no USB ports to charge devices. For child seats, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points too and the doors open nice and wide to position them, though not as wide as the CX-5.
The boot of the Karoq Sportline measures 521-litres with the seats up, and 1,630L with them folded. That’s less than the Karoq Style (588/1,810L) because the Sportline does not feature the Style’s removable ‘VarioFlex’ rear seating and because it has a rear differential, but it’s still a lot more than the CX-5’s 438L/1,340L space. Helping the Karoq’s practicality further are tabs to fold the seats, various hooks to hold bags, side and under-floor storage, a double-sided boot mat and boot nets as well – it’s typically well featured and thought-out for the Skoda brand. Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel.
Service & Warranty: 8.5/10
Like its other new products, Skoda Australia covers the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline with a seven-year/unlimited km warranty with up to nine years of roadside assistance if serviced through a Skoda dealership. Five years/75,000km of servicing costs $2,617 ($523 per service) but buyers can choose a pre-paid service plan in the first 12 months of ownership, which costs just $1,850 ($370 per service).
Mazda covers its new cars with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Like Skoda, it has recently undergone an aftersales revamp to increase convenience for customers and has moved to longer 15,000km service intervals – the same as the Karoq – for a lot of its cars, including the turbocharged CX-5. Five years/75,000km of servicing costs $2,505 ($501 per service), which is slightly less than the Karoq, though Mazda buyers can’t pre-pay for servicing like Skoda buyers can to lessen cost.
The 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline 140TSI DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.4/10
Overall, we think it’s hard not to be impressed by the 2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline 140TSI. Of course, more spacious options exist in the segment, and there are better value options as well, but none offer the same mix of practicality, driving fun, hot hatch performance, aftersales care options and quality of the Karoq. It also looks good, and the Sportline provides the sporty styling that so many Australian buyers love with its 19-inch wheels, gloss black exterior detailing and subtle bodykit.
In our opinion, the unoptioned Sportline offers quite a lot of equipment for its asking price, especially the MY24 cars with their newly standard extra safety features. What separates it from the SUV crowd? Well, at its core, it’s clear that the Karoq Sportline is a great all-rounder in the mid-size SUV segment. If you’re after one, it should definitely be on your test drive list.